The endless echo chamber of online “influencers” is robbing the Internet of its soul.
Ben Belser

Fantastic perspective. Thanks, really.

After I read your article, one more thing totally fell into place, which has bothered me for years. I’m from India, where all sorts of services involving keyboard and mouse are available for hire. There are Indian companies which will offer spammers the “service” of clicking and reading specific spams by the thousands, so that Google and Yahoo’s spam filters are fooled into believing that these are genuine mails. And of course, there are Indian companies (and, I daresay, in many other countries too) which will do “social media management” for large companies.

I’ve always wondered how this damn thing works. How does Company A appoint 3 young executives to type and click away 8 hours a day to manage the “online reputation” of Company B? Isn’t “online reputation” a reflection of real reputation? And doesn’t reputation take time, energy, and consistency to build? I am 50, so probably I am too old to understand all this.

So, I started engaging with friends who run companies. I am a founder-CEO of a company, and have a circle of entrepreneur and businessman friends. Some of them have engaged with “social media management” (SMM) companies. Two of my acquaintances have actually started such a company, and have happily sold it to an advertising agency and “exited” (that’s the term, isn’t it, when you sell off what you claim to be passionate about?). I started noting what these SMM companies do.

I discovered that they appoint young executives barely out of college to work long hours and (i) observe what others are posting online for their client company, and (ii) post nice, preachy, upbeat things about their client company. That’s all they do. The subject matter they are posting is of no consequence to them — it’s just a job. India has no shortage of youngsters, barely out of college, who will do anything which involves sitting in an air conditioned room 8 hours a day and typing away, for a steady paycheck.

This finally taught me why large companies have Facebook pages which don’t have a single paragraph with error-free English grammar. Why blog posts read like mind-numbing management jargon — like a series of management sentences arranged in a row. (I challenge you to read and make sense of even 500 words of that stuff.) Why style, language and content changes from paragraph to paragraph in a single post. (You can’t monitor each young SMM executive in an office of 500 to ensure that they don’t copy-paste text from everywhere, can you? They too have deadlines and a life, you know.)

I — old-fashioned, out-dated I — thought that the Internet is a great place to find interesting things to read. There is a young, hip community which believes that the Internet is a great place to copy from. For many of them, it’s part of their steady-paycheck story. I wish I could make more sense of all this.

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